the other. Alter, having heard the charges relating to crimes of a mixed
criminal and political character which he, or his Party, were alleged to
have committed, would answer simply : <e It is a lie ! " In prison he
resorted several times to hunger strikes, fasting in defence of his own
dignity or that of his fellow prisoners who were with him in the same c=]l.
Altogether he was on hunger strike for some thirty days. In an effort to
bring him to submission he was transferred, in 1941, for several weeks, to
the renowned Lafortowsky prison in Moscow. But in spite of all they
had to undergo, neither Alter nor Erlich signed any of the confessions
demanded from them. In July, 1941, Alter was tried and sentenced to
death by a court martial. He spent twelve days in the condemned cell.
He also made no plea for mercy, and was later similarly informed that the
sentence had been commuted to one of 10 years' hard labour in the labour
camps. In September^ 1941, he was released.
This took place in the same manner as the release of Erlich. High
officials from the N.K.V.D., on behalf of the Soviet Government,
expressed their regret for the " mistake which had been committed by
those sections of the N.K.V.D. who had detained them in prison, tried
them, etc." Immediately after their release, a colonel of the N.K.V.D.,
Aron Volkovisky, called on them as the representative of the Soviet
Government and expressed the wish that they would both forget the
wrongs done to them. They were offered residence in one of the best
hotels in Moscow and a sum of money (about 3,000 roubles each) was
paid to them asc compensation.' Soon afterwards Volkovisky approached
them on behalf of his Government with the suggestion that they should
form an all world Jewish, anti-Hitlerite committee on the lines of the
Slavonic Committee created in Moscow. After consultation with the
Polish Ambassador in the U.S.S.R., Erlich and Alter consented to form
such a group. A number of conferences took place between them
and the representatives of the Soviet authorities. One such conference
was held at the invitation of Beria, the Commissar for the N.K.V.D. who
was present at the time. The principle work of the organisation was agreed
upon, and its provisional membership and praesidium was to be composed
of a Chairman—Erlich and Vice Chairman—Michoels (a Jewish artist) in
the U.S.S.R., the General Secretary was to be Alter. The N.K.V.D.
brought people to Moscow who were to be employed by the committee.
The Soviet delegates themselves had no objection to raise either against
the political and social principles, or the mode of procedure of the com-
mittee, but they made it a point that the approval of the Soviet authorities
must be sought. As a result of the conversation with Beria, Alter and
Erlich sent a letter to Stalin containing the draft of the programme and the
mode of procedure of the committee.
At that time Moscow was finding herself menaced by the Germans
who were fast advancing. In the middle of October, the capital was
evacuated by the Government. The Soviet authorities also transferred